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“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” –Christopher ReeveI&Cr  

I met Christie in 2003, the same year I was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis. Our interracial gospel choir was performing at an educational venue in New Orleans, when after the singing we broke up into small groups with the audience and spoke about racial issues and how they affected our lives. Christie was a delicate beauty as she spoke about her parents having been activists during the civil rights movement during the 60s. She felt particularly drawn to the mission of our choir.

Each person in the breakout session added more facets to a subject wrought with passion and heart breaks, bringing a sense of solidarity and mission. Christie admitted she liked to sing and would love to be a part of the choir, but she obviously held back. When I encouraged her, she disclosed that she had been in treatment for ovarian cancer for quite some time. This is a cancer that remains hidden and undetectable until it’s too late, the elusive killer. It seemed almost unimaginable that this vibrant, passionate young woman with her life in front of her could be undergoing an unseen struggle just to stay alive.

Christie clearly wanted to join the choir and when I told her of my recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, it seemed like more of a possibility to her. It was decided that she would come to rehearsal one Thursday evening at Loyola University to check out the possibility. Christie was met with great enthusiasm and welcomed into our impassioned singing group with a mission.

One of our CDs is dedicated to Christie who sang with us and lost her battle a couple years later. When Christie came to my farm to prepare for our performance at the St. Louis Cathedral, she acknowledged that she had been at my farm before. I didn’t consciously recognize her, but she and her boyfriend purchased cabinets from me a few years before. There was much Christie and I shared that evening in our discussion group that would unfold as crescendos and decrescendos during our truncated lives; truncated in quantity, perhaps, but long in quality.

Christie and I shared a passion for music, social justice and we were BOTH confronting catastrophic illness. When embarking on a journey involving life-threatening illness, we face our greatest fear, that of our mortality. I don’t know if anybody is ever ready for this ordeal, but it offers a particular challenge this early in life. One no longer has the luxury of being immobilized by the fear; illness requires that one’s values are assessed, which then requires action. Healing modalities will need to be strategized along with loved one’s input. By facing this Call, courage is the likely end product.

The connection between Christie and myself was instantaneous, like looking into a mirror. I felt her fragility and was able to reassure her that she could do it; she could join our choir and sing in solidarity. Christie was a fellow heroine.

Illness happens for many reasons in one’s life. It can be a catalyst to move forward, if one has been holding back. There can be agreements made on a soul level to move the individual and the soul family forward in their development. Making assumptions based on one’s own limited perspective as to why a person is ill can be very reductive for the person experiencing the illness or injury.

For people who knew Christie, she changed people’s lives for the better. The world is a better place because she and her family are/were in it. She is no longer in her body, but she still is. Almost 10 years later, she still lives in my heart, and for that I wanted to Honor her.

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“You wait a lifetime to meet someone who understands you, accepts you as you are. At the end, you find that someone, all along, has been you.” -Richard Bach

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Siegfried Zademack

I recently shared with my dear friend Alice, who is on a similar Journey as me, that with this illness I believe we are being brought into greater balance. The personal journeying she has shared with me recently has affirmed this Knowing. I wanted to share some of my deep, personal balancing.

I have been particularly touched by a couple I have known for some time, who has been journeying through MS together. One has the illness, but they are together in their commitment of seeing this curriculum through. After David left, I communicated with Stephen to ask what enables him to stay. His response was so profound and personal that I will not share it on a blog; suffice it to say that he expressed reverence and deep love in his serving. Hearing his perspective gave me so much hope for humankind and appreciation for these friends whose lives are unexplainably interconnected with mine.

From time to time, we check in with each other to share strategies and mutual respect. As I near the end of my ten week commitment to The Presence Process* with this week’s theme being, I FORGIVE MYSELF, what keeps coming up is that I need to forgive myself for having this illness. Everything else has been forgiven, but this last piece seems intransigent.

During our most recent communication, I must have shared my pain and disappointment about traversing this journey alone in contrast to their shared path. There have been so many similarities and synchronicities along our respective paths, it is surely not a coincidence.

But for me, David left. Stephen expressed something remarkable to me. “… dearest Aliyah, I have fallen for you in a way I cannot explain. Somehow there is a sisterhood of like souls on similar voyages and somehow the two of you have me on the same liferaft. You make it easier for me to care for [my wife]. I feel that I could be with you in your situation with perfect ease…” That last line was the clincher. I could not stop sobbing. He had struck a nerve. Pun intended.

I was able to see the part of me that is so balled up and black that I cannot possibly be lovable. After all, David adored me and he could not leave fast enough. As I sat with the pain in my being, and allowed myself to soften and expand around this pain, I realized that it was myself that I could not forgive. Somehow, this invitation allowed me to see the deepest judgment I held was for myself: I had been so cruel to my mother when she was sick for ten years of my young life. My mother has long since forgiven me, but I had not forgiven me! My healing with this illness has involved revisiting the primary relationship with my mother, as I have described in much detail in previous blogs.

It has taken Stephen’s kindness and devotion for me to access that place that we can perhaps call the missing piece. I also understand why I could never maintain a primary relationship and simultaneously do my deepest healing. I would fetishize and romanticize the love from others to protect myself from touching into this blackness. I had to hear love from another person, but also someone from the same liferaft. It is a wondrous process to unlock the depths of where we cannot love ourselves.

It is by entering our deepest wounds where illness can sometimes be just the medicine we need for bringing us into greater balance.

*a book by Michael Brown

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Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. more...

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